Can PANDAS Be Treated Without Medication? A Guide for Parents

A functional medicine doctor treats a child with PANDAS without medication

When your child is sick, it can often be stressful for you as a parent. You may not know exactly what is wrong or the best way to help your child. And while you may know to take them to the doctor, you may not want to use medications to fix the problem. 

One health problem that may arise is Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Strep (PANDAS). This can be a difficult illness for your child and family to go through. And many medical solutions include prescribing medicine to tame the immune system and antidepressants for neurological symptoms. 

But can PANDAS be treated without medication? Taking a Functional Medicine approach integrates addressing the physical, mental, and behavioral symptoms. Here’s a guide for parents on what PANDAS is and how choosing a Functional Medicine approach can benefit your child. 

Are you interested in what functional medicine at Newbridge Health and Wellness provides? Learn more here about functional medicine! 

What Is PANDAS? 

PANDAS is a diagnosis given to children who have a sudden or abrupt onset of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or Tics (involuntary movement disorder) following a Group A Beta-hemolytic Streptococcus (GABHS) or strep infection. The onset of changes can also cause neurological changes with symptoms such as anxiety, emotional lability or depression, behavioral changes, poor school performance, and sensory or motor disturbances. It’s helpful to note that not every child will show signs of traditional strep symptoms.  

PANDAS will lead to the antibodies mistakenly attacking brain tissue which increases inflammation and can induce the sudden onset of movement disorder or neurological behaviors. Since the antibodies are attacking the brain, many of the symptoms associated with PANDAS represent changes in mindset or behavior. Many children develop an immunity to Group A streptococci (bacteria found in the throat or on the skin) after puberty, but some people are still susceptible to infection. 

The neurological changes can often be abrupt and change your child’s behaviors completely, leading to stress within family dynamics. The average age of onset of PANDAS is usually between four to seven years old. 

Children with PANDAS exposed to streptococcal infections can experience a “flare” in symptoms. This often occurs during the school year, in the presence of other children or family members carrying the streptococcal infection. Symptoms can also be exacerbated by environmental triggers such as toxins, mycotoxins from mold spores, heavy metals, immune challenges, allergies, loose teeth (oral bacteria), and more. 

Children may also have Pediatric Autoimmune (Acute-onset) Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS), a broader categorization of a single infectious trigger that isn’t identified. PANDAS is triggered by step and isn’t in conjunction with several infections, making it a subset of PANS. Symptoms can sometimes be triggered by more than one infection, such as Lyme borreliosis, Bartonella, mycoplasma, influenza, coxsackievirus, varicella, human herpesvirus 6, EBV, colds, and more. 

What Are the Symptoms of PANDAS?

What Are Symptoms of PANDAS infographic

PANDAS have many mental and behavioral symptoms that seem like they come from nowhere. Parents who have noticed a change in behavior after an illness should seek medical help for their child. 

Some symptoms that you should look out for include: 

  • Anxiety (specifically separation anxiety)
  • Atypical anorexia or disordered eating
  • Sensitivity to light, sound, or touch
  • Urinary frequency
  • OCD and tics
  • Handwriting difficulties
  • Changes in cognition
  • Mood swings or depression
  • Irritability, aggression, oppositional behaviors
  • Behavior regression (baby talk, throwing tantrums, etc.)
  • Sleep disturbances or fatigue
  • Sensory or motor abnormalities

Children can sometimes go through bad days that represent some of the symptoms of PANDAS, such as throwing a prolonged tantrum. However, their behavior changes will typically be seen through a pattern lasting longer than their usual period. If you’ve noticed the pattern of behavior has changed, you should seek help from your child’s medical provider. 

Do you suspect your child has PANDAS? Schedule an appointment with Newbridge Health and Wellness today! 

How to Treat PANDAS Without Medicine

While there isn’t a single test that can definitively test or panel for PANS/PANDAS, practitioners can use basic standard blood tests to come to a diagnosis. From there, many physicians will prescribe medications to help subdue the physical and mental symptoms that stem from PANDAS. 

The functional medicine approach includes targeting the physical, mental, and behavioral symptoms of PANDAS while using limited medications. It also emphasizes your child’s individual needs, so it best suits them, which is the optimal treatment plan. 

A functional medicine professional will start by identifying the root cause(s) while supporting and balancing the immune system rather than suppressing it. We target the physical symptoms while addressing your child’s unique environment, nutrition, genetics, and the mental and emotional stressors that can make them more or less susceptible to illness and disease. With this approach, your child’s PANDAS can be mitigated or fully treated. 

There are no definitive guidelines for treating PANDAS, which allows you to follow an integrative and holistic treatment plan that supports your whole body’s wellness and restoration. 

Herbs and Antibiotics

Treatment can include using herbs or antibiotics to treat the GAS infection. A functional medicine approach to PANDAS can consist of integrating pharmaceutical and botanical antimicrobials that play a role in treatment. 

Herbs can help suppress pathogens without destroying non-harmful flora, which provides an advantage compared to antibiotics. We also recommend following a whole-food-based diet that supports the gut and replenishes lost bacteria. 

Low Dose Immunotherapy (LDI)

Low Dose Immunotherapy (LDI) is used to help modulate the immune system’s response to infections such as strep. It targets antigens to step in unnecessary immune reactivity. It works well for patients sensitive to herbs or antibiotics and can be used in conjunction with antimicrobials if tolerated. 

Integrative Nutrition

Nutrition is a huge factor in how your body functions and recovers. When you have a good diet, your gut function is optimized, which is important since your gut comprises 70-80% of the immune system and neurotransmitter function. What your child eats can change the beneficial bacteria level in their body and trigger brain inflammation. 

So, integrating a nutritious diet into their lifestyle will help treat PANDAS and set them up for healthy lifestyle habits that promote overall health. 

Far Infrared Sauna

A far infrared sauna can help your child’s body increase its body temperature and support detoxification, which is a key component of recovering from PANDAS. The infrared light is absorbed by the skin and can provide immune support through increased circulation, allowing other parts of the treatment to work effectively. 

CranioBiotic Technique

CranioBiotic Technique (CBT) uses Muscle Response Testing (MRT) to obtain feedback on your body concerning its “health stressors” that may be causing the problems. Some stressors include allergies, pathogenetic organisms, toxins, and physiological dysfunctions. The CBT practitioner will help your child’s brain recognize the stressor and allow it to correct itself. 

Lymph Drainage Therapy (LDT)

Lymph Drainage Therapy (LDT) is a manual therapy that supports the body’s ability to flush toxins and inflammatory cells out of the body. PANDAS symptoms are primarily caused by brain inflammation that can treat anxiety and OCD thoughts and behaviors in conjunction with other treatments. LDT supports your child’s automatic nervous system and promotes a calm, alert state, reducing anxiety and actions responsible for OCD. 

How Can Newbridge Health and Wellness Help?

Newbridge Health and Wellness is a Functional Medicine practice that works toward getting to the root of your health problems. Instead of treating your symptoms, we want to assess what is causing your problems and fix that. Our holistic approach allows your body and mind to heal in conjunction with one another. 

We are experienced in treating patients with PANDAS and are here to determine ways to help your child recover without using medications, or at least minimize them. At Newbridge Health and Wellness, we strive to help your family meet its fullest potential through beneficial medical treatments. If your child has PANDAS and you’re looking for a treatment option to help with their physical, mental, and behavioral changes, we can help you. 

Are you ready to start your functional medicine PANDAS treatment? Schedule an appointment with Newbridge Health and Wellness!